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- Artist: MILLAR; JAMES
- Production Date: 1798
- Production Period:
- Object Name: Oil Painting
- ObjectNumber: OP120
- Date: 1798
- Summary: Oil painting showing a female showing a large manuscript to a group of small children. They are surrounded by many cultural and scientific objects.
- Description: The artist Le Clerc's title page was used for the publishing of the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1797. This painting by Millar uses the same symbols from Le Clercs and adds several more and the composition is different. It was probably painted as an advertisement for the books.
- Description: The work is signed by James Millar, the leading portrait painter in Birmingham at the end of the 18th century. Millar also painted other subjects, occasionally with allegorical themes. One example which combines portraiture with allegory is his painting of the Mynors family at Soho House, Birmingham. If the subject of this painting is a frontispiece for the Encyclopaedia Britannia, it is of great interest as it expresses the Enlightenment idea of covering all branches of learning and knowledge and bringing them to the broad spectrum of readers. The first Cyclopaedia was compiled and published in 1728 by Ephraim Chambers (1680-1740). It was an immediate success and became known as "the pride of booksellers, and the honour of the English nation". It was republished many times during the 18th century. The famous Encyclopdie of Denis Diderot and Jean DAlembert began as a translation of Chambers work. The first edition of the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica, or, A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences completed upon a New Plan' (1769-1771) was compiled by William Smellie in Edinburgh and sponsored by "A Society of Gentlemen of Scotland". It contained 2,459 pages and 160 plates in three volumes. Both the Chambers' Cyclopaedia (1728) and the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1797) were published with slightly different frontispieces based on the engraving by French artist Sebastien LeClerc (1637-1714), "L'Academie des Sciences et des Beaux-Arts". The painting contains some of the allegories of Wisdom and emblems of Sciences and Arts found in the mentioned frontispiece. Millar 's approach would have been influenced by the Enlightenment in the Midlands. This combined the speculative, experimental and observational approach to understanding nature by Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley and John Whitehurst with the application of ideas to industry and technology by Matthew Boulton, James Keir and James Watt. The tower which has been depicted in the left-hand side of the painting resembles the tower of St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham.
- Description: The artist of this painting might be James Millar, who lived in Birmingham and was the leading portrait painter there. But he also painted subject pictures. There is and illegible signature on the painting "'J' or 'R' or 'B' Millar pinxit. 1798" Pinxit means 'painted it'. While some painters sign their works, others do not. Usually it is a matter of personal preference. A signature alone cannot determine the creator of a painting because some artists are known to have signed works done by others. "Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." Samuel Johnson. The 'Allegory of Arts and Sciences' expresses the 18th century idea of general encyclopaedias intended for a broad spectrum of readers. Unlike the 'partial' encyclopaedias of earlier periods, in the 18th century encyclopaedias were intended to cover all branches of learning and knowledge. So it was very important to organise the knowledge in some systematic order. The collectors worked out different systems to arrange their collections. The articles in the encycolpaedias were usually arranged in alphabetical order. It put them in the same category as dictionaries. The first book of this nature was compiled and published in 1728 by Ephraim Chambers (1680-1740). His 'Cycolpaedia' only contained two volumes. It was an immediate success and became known as "the pride of booksellers, and the honour of the British nation." It was republished many times during the 18th century. The very first edition of the 'Encyclopedia Britannica, or, A Dictionary of Arts and Sciences completed upon a New Plan' (1769-1771) was compiled by William Smellie of Edinburgh and sponsored by 'A Society of Gentlemen of Scotland.' It contained 2,459 pages and 160 plates in three volumes. Many new editions and supplements followed. Our picture might have been painted as the frontispiece for one of these editions. It contains many emblems and ellegories of Science, Art and Wisdo,.
- Dimensions: 125.7 x 100.9 cm
- Related People:
- For more information contact: Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service